Genre: Crime Drama
Premise: In 1984, a young Brooklyn detective discovers that two of his co-workers are killing for the mob and attempts to take them down.
About: This is based on a real-life story, which was turned into a non-fiction book by the detective. It was adapted by one of the hottest scribes in town, Bill Dubuque, who penned my only genius-rated script this year, the pilot, “Ozark” (coming to Netflix). Last we heard, Brotherhood was going to be directed by Jose Padilha, the director of Bus 174 and the latest Robocop, but they may be looking for someone new now.
Writer: Bill Dubuque (based on the book “The Brotherhoods” by Guy Lawson and William Oldham)
Details: 128 pages (2012 draft)

Alden-Ehrenreich-Lands-Coveted-Role-As-Young-Han-Solo-160509-04

Alden will look to balance his resume now that he’s got the Han Solo role. Playing Oldham would do just that.

One of the only ways to purchase a great book to adapt into a movie is to get the book before it hits big. You want to avoid The Martian scenario if you’re a producer, where the book gets so huge that you’re stuck paying a hefty price tag for the rights. This is why so many deals happen before a book is released. You gotta get’em while they’re cheap!

One problem with that, though, is that most of the time those bets don’t pay off. The book doesn’t become as big as you thought, and now you’re saddled with this book that nobody’s heard of, trying to turn it into a movie. I don’t know the exact details behind when WB purchased The Brotherhood, but I know that nobody’s read the book. So it’s entirely possible that that’s how this deal went down.

Still, WB feels like they have the next Departed on their hands. And maybe if they massage that formula into a few dozen rewrites, that may happen. But right now, I don’t know what you do with this lumbering piece of concrete.

William Oldham is the youngest cop to hit detective in the Brooklyn precinct in like, since the whole cop thing started. Oldham has lived an interesting life, growing up with his younger brother in Vietnam while his father fought in the war there. A couple of decades later, he wants to do what his dad did, take down the bad guys.

So here we are in 1984, New York, and we finally have someone who’s not afraid to take on the mob, Rudy Giuliani. This throws the infamous five families for a loop, and when their power slides, a new power rises – a brasher more dangerous type of criminal.

This is the criminal Oldham wants to take down. But problems arise when his bosses, Detective Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, deter him from pursuing certain cases, particularly cases where police informants are being killed. Oldham wants to know how these informants are getting fingered, since their involvement is top secret.

Well, it doesn’t take long before we realize Caracappa and Eppolito are the killers, and that they’re actually working for the mob, killing for them all over town. This probably shouldn’t have been a surprise since Caracappa’s father was a mobster himself. I mean, basic background check there, guys.

Anyway, Oldham moves to take these guys down, but because they’re his bosses, he’ll have to play everything very carefully. One slip up and he might not just lose his job, but his life.

I’m going to sound like a broken record here but…. SNOOOORRRRRE.

I mean come on. How freaking many of these mob movies have we seen??? I don’t like most of these movies but I’m convinced that if I wrote one, it would be ten times better than anything else out there because at the very least I WOULD FIND A FRESH ANGLE.

That’s my biggest beef with Brotherhood. It actually starts off promising. We learn that Giuliani’s emergence (as a young attorney passing hard-hitting crime bills) has thrown the five families into disarray and that a “new dangerous kind of criminal” has taken their place.

New dangerous kind of criminal? Hell yeah. Sign me up!

Just the thought of that, the promise of that, gets me thinking about all these wonderful actors that would want to play that role (or roles).

Unfortunately, that role never emerges. Instead, we get the same old boring “cop trying to take down another cop” storyline that we’ve seen a million times before. Cops are being bad. We have to catch them in the act.

They’ve made that movie already!!! Even worse, the story still revolves around the five families. I thought the five families were done!

This is a period in mob history that nobody’s written about, to my knowledge. The aftermath of the five families losing power, and what emerges in that void. That sounds fascinating to me. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I haven’t seen Godfather 3. Maybe they cover it there. But why aren’t we covering that? That’s the movie there!

This is what drives me nuts about Hollywood. They’re more interested in making “the next” something (in this case, Departed) than they are “the new” something. Stop trying to copy. BE FUCKING ORIGINAL!

With that said, this book was reportedly so dense and boring that Dubuque might’ve fallen asleep while adapting it. Here’s a snippet of Bryan Burrough’s review of the book in the New York times: “The trouble is Lawson’s use of detail. There’s a world of difference between “telling” detail and telling every detail. At one point I had to stop and shake my head when I realized he was actually explaining the brand name of a chair Oldham uses during a prison conference.”

You can feel Dubuque grappling with this problem and looking for anything that might excite. For example, Oldham has a younger brother, John, who’s featured in the first half of the script, who gets on a plane to China, only for the Korean Air flight he’s on to be shot down by the Russian government.

It’s technically a dramatic moment, and yet it doesn’t tie into any part of the story. What does Russians shooting down a jet airliner have to do with crooked cops in Brooklyn? That’s the problem here. There’s so little that’s unique to latch onto that even stuff that doesn’t fit into your story has to be included.

The script also seems to miss an opportunity to create a really great character in Eppolito. Eppolito had actually written a screenplay about his life and, believe it or not, scored a cameo as a heavy in Goodfellas! He was the low life idiot to Caracappa’s more stoic leader.

Had we seen their dynamic more and watched them kill these people and their inevitable scramble when the hammer came down, the script may have been more entertaining. A dynamic with one badass and one moron tends to lead to some good dialogue, which we were never privy to.

Instead we’re stuck with a stock love story between Oldham and states attorney, Lori Santorelli, who spend the majority of their scenes making love or discussing their troubled childhoods.

At one point, it looked like Santorelli was going to be working for the bad guys. I was so excited. FINALLY! A twist to wake this story up. But no. It was a false alarm.

That’s what this entire script felt like. A false alarm. :(

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: At least when you come to me with a crime script, don’t even bother unless yo have a fresh take. The only exception is if you do what Scorsese does, which is to give us all these fascinating details about the world that we never knew before. That’s exciting. But if it’s just another “cops being bad” semi-procedural storyline? Myself and most others won’t be interested. And please, someone go write this script about the “new kind of criminals” that took over New York after the families were squashed. That sounds like a cool movie.

  • Lucid Walk

    Yeah! First one here!

    • Scott Crawford

      Yeah! Fell asleep waiting.

  • klmn

    Carson, your post reminded me of one of the Saturday offerings, Taking Stock. My reaction to the 17 pages I read was that it was well written, but it didn’t show a deep knowledge of the subject matter.

    If you choose to write about the mob, then you’re competing with writers like Nicholas Pileggi who have looked deep into that subject.

    • Scott Crawford

      Really good point. Of course, you can bluff a little bit – we’re mostly writing fiction, right?

      But don’t be surprised if someone from New York calls you out on your funky geography, or if someone who served in the military or law enforcement spots an error in your description of firearms.

      With the internet (and I didn’t have the internet when I started writing) there should fewer excuses for not getting it right.

      (Of course, the best thing would be to interview people who know, but that’s not always possible. Books and the interweb is the next best bet, I’d say.).